Kandi Burruss is a Real Housewives anomaly. The Atlanta star is not only sane and likable, she actually had a music career long before her she appeared on the reality show—she was a member of the girl group Xscape and a successful songwriter for acts like TLC and Destiny’s Child. Not long after releasing her second CD, Kandi Koated, and fresh off a tour with Fantasia, Burruss chatted with The Advocate about the White Party and the real gays of Atlanta, but she wasn’t prepared to talk about Tyler Perry’s love life.
The Advocate: Congrats on the album. What were some of its influences?
Burruss: I wanted to give this album a throwback to the ’90s R&B sound. My favorite time in R&B was when I was in the group Xscape in the ’90s. All the R&B artists at that time were chillin’ on the charts, so I thought I wanted to go back to that time.
On Real Housewives, we see you touring with Atlanta co-star Kim Zolciak. Did it remind of your days hitting the road with Xscape?
Well, no (laughs). The tour with Kim was crazy. First of all, Kim is so funny. She’s thinking on the level of an artist who’s sold millions of albums. And then she wants to stop the bus every two seconds and smoke a cigarette—ugh, I cannot stand that. She has [her assistant] Sweetie with her and they together are loud. And with Nene on the bus, they got to arguing, and it got crazy.
When you were touring with Xscape, was it fun? Do you have crazy tour stories?
We had fun and have a lot of crazy stories, but then we had a lot of drama too. To be honest, being on this show reminds me of being in a girl group again. Seriously, you have the chick in the group who thinks she’s the head honcho, the diva of the group…
Which person is that?
Obviously, Nene! Then you have the people who bump heads and you have the good times and times you laugh together and times you’re at each other’s throats. It’s just like being in a girl group.
On the show, you’re often the voice of reason. Is that an accurate depiction of you?
Definitely, on tour I didn’t have any issues. I had so much fun with Fantasia, everyone was like family. And the way I am on the show is definitely my regular personality. I said to myself I wasn’t trying to do anything extra for the camera, I was just going to be myself and hopefully whatever they catch, people will find interesting.
Talk about performing at the White Party with Kim.
The White Party was fun! They always edit the show—we actually did [“Tardy for the Party”] two times, back to back. The crowd was really, really cool. I think when she first came on the stage, she was a lot more nervous [than it appeared on the show]. When I came out, she loosened up and the crowd went crazy. Then we did the song again, and she was comfortable at that point. It was really fun—the night before we actually went to the White Party [dance] and had a great time.
On Atlanta, more than any other Real Housewives incarnation, there are many over-the-top, fashion-forward, domineering gay characters. Is this is an Atlanta thing or simply a coincidence?
That’s so funny that you say that — I’m sitting at Derek J.’s shop right now (laughs). I knew Derek before I got on the show. Derek is the reason I’m on it — he told the producers to call me. Derek knows everybody, so does Lawrence. They’re very popular. The gay community is very, very big in Atlanta. So, it’s no big deal to go in the mall and see guys walking with high-heels that are not totally dressed in drag. Of course, you have the people who do drag, but these people are not drag. I don’t know what you call it—when you’re not shaving your beard, but you still wear high-heels.
I’ve been told it must be an Atlanta thing. I’ve met people who are gay that came to Atlanta that were surprised how open everybody is. Every girl does want the “gay boyfriend” that they can hang out with and talk crazy with and learn new tricks from. I know I like to ask questions and learn tricks.
When you had your Housewives co-stars on your radio show, Kandi Koated Nights, to talk sex, they were very bashful. I imagine your gay friends would have been more forthcoming.
The girls are trying to put on for television. That’s my honest opinion. I don’t understand how [Zolciak] can say, “You can’t believe I would say those things and talk about sex” but yet you stripped in a club before! And now you want to be pretend to be all goody-goody! It doesn’t make sense. I’m not saying everybody should want to talk about their sex life — if you don’t, that’s cool. But don’t look at me like I’m crazy when we know your history.
Your mom — a fan favorite — seems to be very cool with sex talk. Did she instill in you that sex isn't shameful?
The funny thing is my mother didn’t teach me that. As a kid, all girls go through that face where they and their mom bump heads and you start doing things you’re not supposed to be doing. My brother passed away in high school, and that brought my mother together and made us so close. So, I can talk to my mom about anything, but she’s not going to like everything I say. She can get a little judgmental at times, but she doesn’t try to knock me for talking about sex. You should have a relationship with your parents where you can state your opinion, regardless of whether they agree.
Your mother gained a lot of fans this season because she was so sweet, especially to Nene. Maybe she’ll get her own spin-off.
She should! My mother’s the youngest of 14 kids, and she grew up in a family that was very open about my uncle, who'd one day be in drag and the next, dressed as a boy. From the time I was a little kid, it was never taboo. My uncle used to bring his “friend,” and at baby showers, birthday parties, we always had strippers. So, it’s not just my mom, it’s that whole side of the family that’s very open.
As someone who’s such an integral part of the Atlanta scene, you must have encountered at least one of Tyler Perry’s ex-girlfriends.
Hmmm. I don’t know any of them. I’ve seen him out, but I don’t know him. What does that mean?! Uh-oh! You’re trying to get me in some mess.
That was a good evasive answer.